THE ROLE OF INFLUENCERS AND BRAND ADVOCATES IN SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
It is generally accepted that word of mouth and peer recommendation are the most effective forms of advertising, and their effectiveness is further amplified when the persons talking about a product or a service are individuals who have established their authority and credibility around a certain topic or subject matter.
Image source: http://blog.zuberance.com/word-of-mouth-rules/wom-rule-6-brand-advocates-are-5x-more-influential-than-paid-media/
Marketers consider these individuals as influencers in their respective communities and networks because of their ability to affect the actions and behavior of people. This influence comes from the trust and goodwill that they have generated among the members of their community or network.
In the social media environment, these influencers are often bloggers with hundreds or thousands of followers on their social media channels. They can be industry practitioners, analysts, journalists, academics, enthusiasts and even ordinary people whose passion and knowledge in a particular area of interest have established them as central figures in their online communities and social networks.
According to Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence Report, bloggers are the third most powerful online influencers of purchase decisions right after retail sites and brand sites, with 31% of consumers stating that their decision to buy a product had been influenced by something that they previously read in a blog. Considering the fact that blogs are the fifth most frequently used online service, the level of influence wielded by bloggers is not surprising.
Image source: http://technoratimedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/tm2013DIR.pdf
Because of this, social media marketers are keenly interested in leveraging the persuasive power of these influencers. By engaging with bloggers and getting them to talk positively about specific products, marketers believe that they can effectively generate brand awareness and influence purchase decisions among theirs peer and followers.
As a result, marketers are eagerly implementing influencer outreach programs as a social media version of celebrity endorsements. Technorati reveals that 65% of brands engaging in influencer targeting as part of their digital marketing mix. Just like celebrity endorsements, these influencer outreach programs target those influencers with the greatest popularity and prestige, as measured by their number of subscribers, blog page views, Facebook friends and Likes, and Twitter followers.
However, placing too much importance on the popularity of influencers tends to overlook two important elements of social media influence. For one thing, influencers tend to focus on a specific area of interest that constitutes their sphere of influence. When a product falls beyond the influencer’s area of focus, his level of influence tends to decline. For example, a fashion blogger who suddenly recommends a brand of electronics will be less effective in influencing purchase decision. Thus, it is important to consider the appropriateness or fit of the brand to the influencer’s area of focus.
Another important thing to consider is that popularity does not always equate to influence. A blogger with a large audience but who does not advocate a brand passionately will be less effective in influencing purchase decision than a passionate and enthusiastic blogger who has a smaller number of followers. The implication is that, in order to tap into the influence of popular bloggers, it is first necessary to convert them into brand advocates.
According to Dr. Kathleen R. Ferris-Costa, a brand advocate is a customer who champions a brand and acts as its ambassador by enthusiastically promoting and defending the brand, whether in ordinary conversations, in blogs, in e-mails, through tweets, through YouTube testimonials, and through other digital channels. While most brand advocates do not possess individual influence, when they unite into a community that is aligned to the brand, the community as a whole can wield a powerful influence.
This infographic from BzzAgent illustrates how brand advocates can contribute in promoting a brand:
Image source: http://www.spiral16.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/advocateinfographic.jpg
In his blog, Jay Baer argues that an influencer who is simply paid or compensated in some manner to talk about a product is typically less committed to the brand than an actual customer advocate. This is because true advocacy is driven by the customer’s depth of conviction in the brand, which emerges from his actual experience of the product.
This infographic from Zuberance.com highlights the advantages that brand advocates have over influencers:
Image source: http://blog.zuberance.com/blog/infographic-influencers-vs-brand-advocates-why-influencer-outreach-is-overrated/
Because of this, some social media marketers prefer brand advocacy programs over influencer outreach programs because of the stronger levels of commitment and authenticity of brand advocates. Brand advocacy programs focus on building a community of satisfied and loyal customers and working with them to spread the word about the brand.
However, there is no reason why a brand advocacy program should not also target influencers. What transforms a customer into a brand advocate can also transform an influencer into a powerful brand advocate – and that is superior quality and a unique selling proposition. As long as the brand delivers these, combining an influencer outreach program with a brand advocacy program can make for a truly effective social media marketing mix.
Raging Creations can help you start off your influencer outreach and brand advocacy programs through the following:
- 1. Brand analysis to identify what customers love about your product
- 2. Identification of blogs and other social media channels that strategically fit your brand
- 3. Outreach and relationship management of key influencers
- 4. Creation of an online community of brand advocates
- 5. Development of online and social media programs to engage, motivate and reward brand advocates
- 6. Tracking of ROI and brand awareness improvement from your social media campaign
Let us help you start off incorporating influence outreach and brand advocacy programs into your social media marketing strategies now!